My question precludes that I have any doubt that there is a God. It asks about the nature of God. Like several billion other people, I have no doubt that God exists. Like most of the other billions of people, I too, was introduced to Him by my parents. It was not, obviously a formal introduction but an introduction to the concept of God. God, I was told, was omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. He knew what everyone did. Gave each one the choice to do a good thing or a bad one. He knew what everyone was thinking of, at all times. He was the great Headmaster in the sky who would reward us for the good that we did and punish us for the bad. When we met, that is. This subjective concept of God remained with me through my school and college days. Both my school and college were run by Jesuits. I was impressed by their devotion and scholarship. However in college, I majored in Physics. The study of physics taught me that all that had to be proved, had to be proved without any doubt. Q.E.D. There was no getting away from that. Lesson learnt.
Immediately after my graduation, I started working in an advertising agency as a copy writer. My penchant for writing overcame my fascination with physics. Not permanently and not for too long. I remember one day, a long time ago, my father and I were sitting in our garden and I casually looked at the sky. We were, at that time, staying in a small town about 20 miles away from Mumbai. There was no light pollution and the sky was full of twinkling dots of light. The stars. I turned to my father and asked him.
“Dad. What are those stars? What makes them shine and how do they stay up in the sky without falling down?”
“I really don’t know, son. Only God knows.”
That reply ignited my curiosity. It remained dormant until I had finished my education and started working in an ad agency. I was very engrossed in my work and all thoughts of the mysteries of the stars in the sky were kept on the back burner. But, as I said, not for long. My father died almost exactly ten years after I started working. He was a great father and I thought of him often. I would mull over the conversations we had, the pride he took when I stood first in a school debating competition, The praise I got from my English teacher for the essays I wrote for my school assignments pleased him a lot. He was a writer, too. Then one day I remembered the conversation we had, sitting in our garden, about the stars. I remember his answer to my question about what the stars were and his reply that “Only God knew.” My age at that time was almost thirty and I was no longer willing to accept that as the final answer. Not with my background in Physics. And so, I decided to find out, as close to the truth as possible, the mystery of the stars. What they were and why they were there.
I realised that the only way for me to find out more about the mysteries of the universe was to research and read. It was too late in the day for me to be a trained astronomer. Besides, I was way behind on the math required to be one. And so, I started reading. At first, I reached for the omnibus of information, the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, a set of which I had at home. It was not very useful because it was a rather old edition. It told me that the stars were identical to our sun, Which I knew. It also told me that like our sun they produced immense amounts of energy such as heat. light and other forms of energy across the entire spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. This, too, I knew. I wanted more. I wanted to know the How and the Why? And so, I read as much as I could find to reveal the facts which were still mysteries to me.
I found a book in a dingy book store titled ‘My Einstein’. It was a collection of essays by the foremost scientists on the life and work of Albert Einstein. Apart from personal anecdotes of the great man, there were explanations of the special and general theories of relativity propounded by Einstein. Theories that were difficult to understand even by scientists of that time but which, later, on physical observation proved to be true. One important facet of Einstein’s theories was that that we live in a world of four dimensions. Length, breath, depth and time. Einstein proposed that while and perhaps because the speed of light was a constant, the perception of time elapsed between two events was not the same It was, in simple terms, dependent on the relative speeds which two observers were travelling at. After synchronising their watches, if one observer were to travel at a very high speed for a period of time while the other one remained stationary on earth, then the watch on the traveller would show that less time had elapsed since he went and returned from his journey than the watch on the stationary observer. This, among other facts such as the warping of space due to gravity, etc. had a profound effect on our understanding of the universe of which we were just a very tiny part. Was time always there? Was space always there? Were the galaxies and sins and their planets always there? These questions remained unresolved.
Serendipity stepped in. On a pavement stall, selling second hand books, I saw a book titled ‘A Brief History of Time’ written by Stephen Hawking. The title intrigued me and I bought the book. I read it once, twice, thrice before I could before I could store in my mind all the information it provided. After reading it, I had a far, far better understanding of the universe which we are a part of. I was hooked. I read every book written by him, learning more each time. The latest book written by him which I have just finished reading is titled ‘The theory of Everything – the origin and fate of the universe.’ After reading it, I felt competent to write this article. I realise that what I have written so far is fairly voluminous. However, I cannot end without informing the reader of what I have learnt and the conclusions that I have drawn as a consequence of what I have learnt. What I learnt is this:
In the beginning there was nothing. No matter. No space. No time. Then, about 13.8 billion years ago, there suddenly appeared a lump of matter. The lump was very small and infinitely condensed. So condensed that in that small lump was all the matter that we now see in the Universe. Unbelievable. Today, scientists call that lump a ‘Singularity’. No sooner that it appeared, the singularity, unable to sustain it’s self, exploded. The Big Bang! The explosion spewed out matter. Created space and began time. It is believed that at that moment there was only one unifying force acting. This force, however, immediately split up into the four fundamental forces which govern all that happens all over the Universe. They are gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force. The matter that the Big Bang released consisted of the basic sub atomic particles, the proton and the electron The temperature at the time of the Big Bang was about ten thousand million degrees. This, together with the speed at which the basic elementary particles of the atom were being expelled were too high to allow any of them to get close enough to combine to form an atom. There were other sub atomic particles created at the same time. However, this is not a lesson in physics and I shall, therefore, confine myself only to facts which lead to an irrefutable conclusion.
About one hundred seconds, the temperature fell to approximately onr thousand million degrees. Because of this drop in temperature, the particles that constitute the nucleus of an atom, the proton and the neutron, would not have the energy to resist the strong nuclear force, the force which holds together the constituents of the nucleus every atom together. One proton plus one neutron is the nucleus of deuterium or heavy hydrogen. The deuterium atoms would then be able to combine to make the atom of helium which contains two proton and two neutrons. This continued for another million years or so. The nascent universe kept expanding and cooling until it’s temperature dropped to about a couple of thousand degrees. Once this happened, the electrons were unable to resist the force with which they combine to make atoms and thus, atoms were made. The most abundant of which was hydrogen, the lightest atom in the universe containing only one proton and one electron.
All this while, the universe kept cooling and expanding. However, there were some areas which were denser than the rest. In these areas gravity would start to act and slow down and even make these areas collapse. While they were collapsing, the gravitational pull of the matter surrounding these areas made them spin. As the collapsing region got smaller, it would spin faster, just as a skater spins faster when he draws his arms in. Eventually the region would be small enough and spin fast enough to over come the gravity of the surrounding gasses. This is how rotating galaxies were formed. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way. is one such rotating galaxy.
Although there is much more to be said about galaxies and the formation of suns which give out enormous amounts of energy and light I will desist from further lecturing and go to the theme of this blog. All that I have written is an affirmation of the presence of God which has been accepted by almost leading scientists, including Albert Einstein. Who else could have constructed this magnificent edifice of the universe. Who else could have fine tuned the force of expansion, the temperature and the circumstances which led to the formation of matter. Nothing and nobody existed before the Big Bang. Except God. All we see on Earth and in the heavens is his creation.
But what is God? He is not material. He is not made of matter as we are. If he were, he would be subject to the same forces He created making him mortal. Mortal, he is definitely not. Nor is he the figure with a flowing white beard, dressed in white gowns as he often depicted. Is He an all knowing, all pervasive intelligence? Perhaps. Even though we humans have intelligence it requires us to have a brain. God, on the other hand, being non material does not have a tangible brain such as we humans have. I am pretty sure that I have given a clue about what I believe what God is. But then, I may be very wrong. The answer lies, I think, in what my father told me many years ago. “Only God knows.”